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NORTH TYNESIDE'S SUPPORTING PEOPLE PROGRAMME IS 'FAIR' WITH PROMISING PROSPECTS FOR IMPROVING

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The Supporting People programme administered by North Tyneside Council is a 'fair' service with promising prospects...
The Supporting People programme administered by North Tyneside Council is a 'fair' service with promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

Supporting People is the government's funding and planning regime for the delivery of housing related support services to a wide range of vulnerable people. The programme started on April 1 2003.£1.8bn is being spent nationally on these services in England in this financial year.

North Tyneside Council's Supporting People programme was inspected earlier than anticipated due to the concerns expressed by the ODPM over the high costs of some services. It is one of 19 such authorities identified for an early inspection.

The inspection team, led by the Housing Inspectorate in partnership with the Commission for Social Care Inspection and Home Office Probation Inspectorate, gave the service one star out of a possible three. The inspectors found that the programme was being administered effectively, there were good relationships with service providers and there had been rapid progress recently to improve services. However, service users and hard to reach groups are not sufficiently involved in the programme.

Roy Irwin, the chief housing inspector, said:

'The Supporting People programme provides an opportunity to help the council to tackle problems faced by vulnerable people in North Tyneside. The council has made significant recent progress and has developed a strong action plan to take this programme forward. However, it has not yet demonstrated that the Supporting People programme is giving value for money and it needs to do more to identify and address the needs of all vulnerable people in the community.'

The inspectors found:

* The council's Supporting People website is easy to use and provides comprehensive information. There is a fairer charging policy and a welfare benefits assessment team helps to ensure that vulnerable users get benefits they are entitled to;

* Service providers receive prompt and accurate payments and they are increasingly involved in the programme. They expressed high levels of satisfaction with the Supporting People team;

* There is a robust policy and service review framework to develop the Supporting People programme;

* Service users and potential users are not effectively involved. No real dialogue has been established with black and minority ethnic groups and other hard to reach groups;

* The cost effectiveness and value for money of the Supporting People programme has not been demonstrated and some ineligible costs are currently being funded; and

* The local need for future housing support services has not been robustly identified and programmes have not been prioritised to meet those needs.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

* Implement effective arrangements for involving users, carers and advocacy groups, including hard to reach groups who do not currently receive housing related support;

* Develop and integrate diversity strategies to ensure that all groups of users, potential users, community and advocacy groups are identified, and have access to Supporting People services;

* Review the eligibility of costs and contracts and demonstrate the cost effectiveness of services through service reviews to ensure the Supporting People programme is delivering value for money.

North Tyneside Council receive a grant from central government of£9.2m in 2004/05 to meet the costs of its housing related support services. These include housing related support services for older people, homeless people, people with mental health problems, people with learning disabilities and other services to help vulnerable people live independently in their own homes. In addition the council receives£214,861 to pay for the costs of administering the Supporting People programme.

Copies of the report are available on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk

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